After my last rant, several friends expressed interest in helping me create a browser-based MMORPG. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised. As I pointed out repeatedly on this blog, any gamer naturally dreams of creating their own MMO some day. Now, if you're going to make one of these, a browser-based game is the easiest option by far. Especially if you're an experienced web developer, and we are.

The question is, what game to make? The possibilities are endless... but so is the array of competing titles. To navigate the chaos, let's look at some of the existing options. What do they have in common? What works? What doesn't? What do they lack?

These are my answers. Yours will likely be different.

The first browser-based MMO I remember playing was Black Nova Traders, a space trading game that like all its brethren straddles the line between economic simulation and RPG. While the concept is sound (is there anyone who hasn't wasted countless hours playing Elite back in the day?) the game suffers from a few downsides, most importantly the fact that it stalls after a while and has to be reset. The navigation system doesn't seem like a good idea to me either. Also, interaction between players is essentially restricted to messaging and PvP, which due to the constraints of the medium isn't even, well, interactive. That, as you'll see, is a recurring theme with browser-based MMOs, one I hope to avoid in my own game. On the plus side, the game offers a big map with a variety of things to do, so it can be pretty fun for a while.

Somewhat at the opposite end sits Legend of the Green Dragon, a port parody of a BBS door game which was itself essentially a combat MUD (think 1999-era EverQuest without the graphics). The gameplay is as simplistic and repetitive as you might expect from that description, and if I remember correctly you can't even play with your friends until reaching a certain level (and then you have to be in a guild). At least the game doesn't take itself seriously, and with no graphics or AJAX it's probably playable even with a text-based browser.

Much more technically advanced is Pardus, a game I reviewed last autumn. Unlike the others, it has a gridlike map, as opposed to discrete locations. It also has player building and random missions, two features that would be absolutely great if done right, which they aren't. Still, the game is damn good and has a faithful player base to show for it. It's just not for me. All that PvP.

Last but not least we have all the strategy games in the vein of OGame, Travian and more recently the deceptively named but technically excellent Lord of Ultima. These must offer the most opportunities for player interaction, and consequently the highest retention rate, but they are also the most technically challenging (I studied the problem). If I still had the patience to play complex strategy games, making one of these would be a real option.

Still, the one game we're most likely to use for inspiration is Echo Bazaar, which I have played continually for several months now and has the markings of a future classic. So ours is likely to have:

There are also a couple of things I would like to have myself:

As for the technologies involved, it's too early to tell, but I'm frankly bored with PHP and MySQL, and would appreciate a change; on the other hand, it would have to be something that can run on ordinary shared hosting accounts, which limits the options quite a bit.

But that's another story, for when we get past the brainstorming stage.


I feel sort of the same way. I won’t play MMO’s anymore or games that are just too much of an uphill fight simply because I’m too old and that’s not fun anymore. And if I really look back, it wasn’t fun in the past either, it’s just I didn’t know better. 🙂

I’ve found in my own gaming experience that the happiest thing is to have a long queue of available games. Spiderweb Software just came out with Avadon: The Black Fortress which I’m playing now … and on top of that, I’ve got The Witcher 2 and some fun-looking side-scroller RPG that I can’t remember the name of waiting for me.

So … Even if the game I’m on gets boring, I’ve got something to look forward to. Nothing as depressing as running out of fun stuff to play. Usually wind up falling back to Angband 🙂


I guess it must be the age or the actual times we live in :). So much to do, so little time…

I also have a few cool games I would like to play, and yet… not enough time to spare.